The Beechcraft Musketeer line is a family of single-engine, low-wing, light aircraft that includes the Model 19 Musketeer Sport, the Model 23 Musketeer, Custom and Sundowner, the Model 23-24 Musketeer Super III the retractable gear Model 24-R Sierra and the military model CT-134 Musketeer.
Model 23 Musketeer and Custom
The first of the line was the Model 23. It was introduced under the "Musketeer" name as a 1963 model at an initial price of $13,300 and was powered by a Lycoming O-320-D2B engine of 160 bhp (120 kW). The next year this engine was replaced by the Continental IO-346-A engine of 165 bhp (123 kW). This engine was not a success and was in turn replaced by the Lycoming O-360-A4J engine of 180 bhp (130 kW) starting with the B23 Musketeer Custom of 1968. In 1970 the C23 version was introduced also under the name "Musketeer Custom". In 1972 the C23 was renamed the "Sundowner". When properly equipped, the B23 and C23 are approved for limited aerobatics.
A total of 2,331 Beechcraft 23s of all variants were manufactured by the time production was completed 20 years later in 1983.
Model 19 Musketeer Sport
The Beech 19 was introduced as a 1966 model year. Despite having a lower model number, it was a later variant and was a lower-powered trainer version of the Model 23. It lacked the 23’s third side window and had a Lycoming O-320-E2C powerplant of 150 bhp (110 kW). The Sport was introduced in 1966 with a standard price of $11,500. When properly equipped, the A19, B19, and M19 Sports are approved for limited aerobatics.
The Model 19 was named the "Musketeer Sport" and a total of 922 were built over the 15 years of production which ended with the 1979 model year.
Model 23-24 Musketeer Super III
Along with the introduction of the lower-powered Model 19 in 1966, Beechcraft also introduced a higher-powered version of the Model 23 Musketeer and named it the Beechcraft 23-24 Musketeer Super III. This upgraded model had a Lycoming IO-360 fuel injected powerplant which produced 200 bhp (150 kW), 35 hp (26 kW) more than the standard Model 23 Musketeer of that year. This model initially sold for a price of $16,350 in 1966.
In 1966 a single demonstration Model 23-24 was equipped with a constant speed propeller. In succeeding years approximately one third of production aircraft were delivered with the constant speed propeller.
The Super Musketeer typically has a useful load of 1050 to 1080 pounds - giving it one of the highest payloads of four-cylinder, fixed gear, simple single engined aircraft available. Most Model 23-24s were produced in a four-seat configuration. A very small number were produced with a 4+2 configuration with the baggage area convertible to seat two children. This configuration option was more common on the Sierra models that followed the Model 23-24.
One of the few weaknesses of the Model 23-24 is that it had a simple heat distribution system that provided warm air via the firewall to the area under the instrument panel only. This meant heat to the rear seat passengers was less than optimal. Later aircraft featured increasingly better ducting designs that provided heat to all four seating positions.
The fixed-gear Model 23-24 was produced only between 1966 and 1969. A total of 369 Musketeer Super IIIs were completed before it was superseded by the Model 24 Sierra. These were serial numbered MA-1 to MA-369 and were the only models to have a "MA" serial number, making them easier to distinguish than other members of the Musketeer line. In the last few airframes of the series a new instrument panel with the same "vertical tape" gauges that were used in the early Sierras was introduced. These models were known as the A24 and are not to be confused with the first Sierras, which were designated A24R models. Other than the instrument panel these aircraft were mechanically identical to the earlier A23-24 model.
Model 24 Sierra
The Model 23-24 Musketeer Super III proved the utility of the 200 hp (150 kW) engine in the Musketeer airframe, but the fixed gear configuration prevented using full advantage of the extra power of the injected Lycoming. The obvious solution was retracting the landing gear and this resulted in the Model 24.
Christened the "Sierra", the first model year for the new retractable version was 1970. The initial A24-R Sierra was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-A1B of 200 bhp (150 kW) and sold for a standard price of $24,950. The Model 24 completed the Beech line between the fixed gear Musketeers and the much larger, faster, more complex and expensive Beechcraft Bonanza.
Sierra production ended at the same time as the Model 23 Musketeer assembly line was closed, during the aviation economic downturn of 1983. A total of 744 Sierras were delivered.
The Musketeer design was further developed into a twin-engine aircraft, the Beechcraft Model 76 Duchess.
The main difference between the Musketeer line and other similar light aircraft is the Musketeer’s undercarriage. While the competitive Cessna 172s use sprung steel main gear, the Piper PA-28 Cherokees use oleos and the Grumman American AA-5s use fibreglass sprung main gear, the Musketeer family use a trailing idler link gear system with a compressed rubber puck suspension system. This gives the aircraft quite different landing characteristics compared to the competition; light touchdowns are often accompanied by the idler links skipping and producing a less-graceful than anticipated landing. With practice smooth landings are easy to accomplish.
As a result of this type of landing gear design, Beechcraft did not design or offer wheel fairings for the fixed gear models. Several after-market manufacturers have designed and tested wheel fairings for Musketeers.
During their production years the Musketeer family of aircraft were popular trainers and were used by many flying schools. Most Musketeers are now privately owned and are prized for their large, roomy cabins, airframe strength and stability, if not their high cruise speeds.
Aircraft type club
The Musketeer family of aircraft is supported by an active aircraft type club, the Beech Aero Club.
A23A Musketeer Custom III
Published - July 2009
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